Sydney (Reuters) – Australian police said on Wednesday a pro-Palestinian protest scheduled for the weekend in Sydney will be an “unauthorised” activity, and it would set up a task force after reports of alleged anti-Semitism in a rally earlier this week.
As police expect more protests ahead with Israel vowing to escalate its response to an attack by the Palestinian militant group Hamas with a ground offensive. Australian officials said the new task force would help coordinate police actions.
“In essence, the operation will capture all intelligence available to us in relation to community sentiment, potential protest activity and potential demonstrations that might take place in the future,” New South Wales Police Acting Commissioner David Hudson told reporters.
The decision on the task force comes as police investigate a protest outside the Sydney Opera House on Monday after unverified footage shared by the Australian Jewish Association and featured on Sky News appeared to show a group lighting flares and chanting “gas the Jews”.
Hudson urged people not to take part in the protest rally planned in Sydney on Sunday. It could not be given approval as organisers needed to inform authorities at least seven days prior to the event.
“It is unauthorised at this stage. It was not submitted to us in the appropriate timeframe. Organisers might decide to move it and if that is the case, there will be considerations,” Hudson said.
Police are in talks with the organisers though they did not have the power to stop people gathering for an event, he said.
Israel carried out air strikes across Gaza overnight as retaliatory bombing — which Gaza’s health ministry says has killed at least 900 people and wounded 4,600. Israel’s embassy in Washington said the death toll from the weekend Hamas attacks had surpassed 1,000.
Australian woman Galit Carbone had died in the Hamas attacks, the first known Australian casualty, Foreign Minister Penny Wong said on Wednesday.